Opposites 2: Fourth of July Parade!

  • Heavy and light, hard and soft, smooth and textured, inanimate and organic . . .

— Ben Huberman, The Daily Post Photo Challenge: OPPOSITES

Saw many great opportunities for pictures today, at the annual Redwood City Fourth of July parade!

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Redwood City Cop taking a picture of the Leland Stanford, Jr. University Marching Band: 4th of July, 2016

And, in the picture below, the people on the truck are waving in opposite directions:

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Redwood City Cop taking a picture of the Leland Stanford, Jr. University Marching Band: 4th of July, 2016

Finally, the attire of the two people in the photo below are complete opposites:

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The Fourth of July: Anything Goes!

HAPPY HAPPY FOURTH, EVERYONE!

Stay tuned.

First Adventure: Mexico on Third-Class Bus with Roommate Sachiko

Self was a grad student at Stanford.

Her roommate was an Anthropology grad student named Sachiko Hayashida. (She has tried many times to find Sachiko. She has googled “Sachiko Hayashida” and found a few who teach in Japanese universities and fired off letters. The letters always come back with a note: I am not that Sachiko Hayashida)

Sachiko and self decided to spend two weeks traveling around Mexico.

Sachiko was responsible for drawing up the itinerary. Self’s only responsibility was to keep up.

Sachiko had undertaken many trips by herself. Not self. This was self’s first travel adventure.

We ended up fighting. A lot.

Sachiko had to be carried on the plane on a stretcher at the very end. She had Montezuma’s Revenge.

One of our most memorable trips was from Mexico City to Merida by third-class bus. Once we arrived in Merida, we searched all over the city for a vegan restaurant mentioned in Lonely Planet. The name was Sergeant Pepper’s.

We finally found someone who said, “Ah! You are looking for Sarhento Pimiento!”

Of course! Sarhento Pimiento! Why had we wandered all over Merida looking for SERGEANT PEPPER?

One of the most memorable excursions we made while in Merida was to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. We took a public bus, and it dropped us off at the side of the road at 4 a.m.

Self frankly thought Sachiko was crazy, but at 7 a.m., when Chichen Itza began to receive its swarm of tourists, self thought Sachiko was brilliant. Because no one else was in the ruins at 4 a.m. (Of course, it wasn’t safe. But we were 22. We weren’t thinking of safe) We were thrashing around, avoiding lizards — some extremely large — and what-not, when we suddenly came to a large clearing, raised our eyes and YOWZA! A temple!

Afterwards, self read to Sachiko from a book she’d picked up from the Stanford Bookstore: World of the Maya by Victor W. Von Hagen.

She has it with her now, in Mendocino.

P. 12:

The Maya have been characterized as “The Intellectuals of the New World” because of their highly developed calendrics, their glyph-writing, and the ornamental complexity of their architecture. They were unique in their culture; pacific, they fought few wars; they viewed life from their jungle fastness with Olympian detachment, working out complicated calendric inscriptions that could push their history back to 23,040,000,000 days.

You need a lot of undisturbed time (i.e. peace) to be that focused on a task that complicated, self figures.

The irony is not lost on self, that one of the first widely-read accounts of the Mayan civilization was William H. Prescott’s The Conquest of Peru, who made a hero out of Francisco Pizarro, “a man who couldn’t even read his own name . . . ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Alphabet 2: 2016 WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge # 3

This week, let the alphabet be your inspiration: find a string of letters.

The Daily Post

Self was inspired by this WordPress blog today:  Love in the Spaces

Below, more from self’s archive of recent pictures.

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Presentation on Manilatown, yesterday at the Listening to the Silence conference at Stanford University

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Graffiti, New York’s Chelsea district

Finally, blurred photo (Self was on Sixth Avenue). Last December was her first winter in New York City in forever.

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Wintry in Manhattan: The partially obscured sign says RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Short Stories, Plays, Process: An Interview With Playwright Penny Jackson

Penny and self have been friends for a long, long, long time. Since before either of us were even married.

Self remembers having Penny over to her little one-bedroom in Menlo Park. She met Thomas, Penny’s then-boyfriend, soon-to-be-husband.

We were in the Stanford Creative Writing Program together. Penny lived in the City. She hitched rides to the writing workshops with Jeffrey Eugenides and his dog. They split on the gas.

In recent years, Penny has been writing plays at a terrific rate. Her most recent production was during last fall’s Solo Festival in New York City.

Self wrangled an interview out of Penny. No mean feat, as Penny is terrifically busy. Here are some of her answers to self’s questions:

What attracts you to playwriting as a form as opposed to, say, writing a novel or a short story? What was the first genre you started writing?

I first began writing stories when I was in college (Barnard). I am very comfortable with writing in short forms, and I have adapted three of my plays from three stories, All Alices, Louise in Charlestown, and Before, which have worked very well onstage. Although I wrote a novel, Becoming the Butlers (published by Bantam when Penny was a 20-something), I find writing a novel to be more challenging. Keeping track of the plot and characters over a length of time is difficult. Perhaps I like playwriting now because each scene is like a short story to me, with a beginning, middle, and end. That’s not to say I won’t return to novel writing. I still love fiction writing, and unlike playwriting, you have a sense of control you have to somewhat relinquish when you hand your play over to your director and actors.

Are there conditions that need to be present before you feel you can write your best?

Absolute quiet and no distractions. I joined The Writers Room, which provides a haven for writers. I wish sometimes that the Internet did not exist. When I was at MacDowell, there was no Internet, and I could really focus.

What keeps you writing?

The world. I am inspired all the time by the news and what I see in the city and hear from my friends. I write to be able to understand the complexities, the unfairness, and also the joys of life. If I didn’t write, I think I would go a bit crazy. I hear the same sentiment from actors: if they don’t act, they can’t handle the world. Right now I’m sick about the gun violence in our country, and writing about the issue really helped me with my sadness and disgust at our politicians.

What is the biggest difference between playwriting now and playwriting when you were just starting out? Does it get easier? Why or why not?

Playwriting is becoming somewhat easier. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with several brilliant directors, actors, and dramaturges. I understand the form better now. What is not easier is finding a theatre to produce your plays if you are a female writer who is not a recent Yale graduate. Ageism and sexism very much exist in theatres, when I began and still today.

Do you experiment with form and/or dialogue? Who or what inspires you?

Because I’m trained in fiction writing, which is character-based, I always begin with people. An old lady drinking in a decrepit Irish bar. Two teenage girls talking to a mysterious older man at Starbucks. A drag queen waiting for his show in Las Vegas and having to talk to his daughter about marriage.

I love dialogue. I write down snippets of dialogue I overhear in the streets of New York City all the time. And if you follow me on Facebook, you can frequently read about remarkable conversations with New York cab drivers.

In your opinion, what is the best play ever written?

I am a huge Eugene O’Neill fanatic, so I will say Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Family secrets and family guilt and pure poetic language. But of course, King Lear is top of the canon. King Lear howling about his dead daughter still takes my breath away.

Which playwright has taught you the most about your craft?

Rogelio Martinez is a wonderful playwright who has taught me so many important aspects about playwriting. I also love the Lark Development Center which gives you the space and time to try out new works in a safe environment.

Did you have a mentor? Do you think playwrights need one?

Yes, having a mentor is important. So many women directors have been my mentors: Joan Kane, Gloria Kadigan, and Shira-Lee Shalit are three tremendously talented women artists who inspire and instruct me. Writing is a very lonely business. You need a cheerleader!

What’s the worst thing about being a playwright?

That it’s just too damn expensive to produce a play in America. Unlike Europe, we don’t have government funding for theatre. The costs are astronomical. As a female playwright, I face other challenges. Walk down Broadway or The West End. Do you see any female playwrights on the marquee? My organization, The League of Professional Theatre Women, is working so hard for gender equality in theatre, but it’s a very long, frustrating, and seemingly endless battle.

 

 

Stanford East Asian Studies

Self has never been to a Stanford Alumni Homecoming. Not one. Even though her house is only six miles from Stanford.

Today, to honor how her parents supported her through a masters in East Asian Studies, concentration in Chinese, she picks up one of her East Asian Studies textbooks: China’s Imperial Past: An Introduction to Chinese History and Culture, by Charles O. Hucker.

p. 208:

The Buddha won converts in part because it is clear that his was an electric personality. But he also had a superb intellect, and his conception of the human condition was at once breathtakingly brilliant and utterly simple. Its essence is: There is no Brahma; there is no Atman. What keeps you in this world of illusion, propelling you from one life to the next, is no more than your own craving for existence and for self-ness. If you really want to get off the merry-go-round of endless suffering and rebirth, then realize you are on it only because you want to be. To get off, all you have to do is let go!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

And, Once More Unto the Breach

Benefits of being a lifetime member of the Stanford Alumni Association (A Message from the Director of the Association). This is rather a quaint little benefit that self has never had to avail of. Nevertheless, while cleaning out a drawer, she found this note and read it again:

Enclosed is your Stanford Alumni Association key tag, engraved with your life membership number. Please use your six digit life membership number whenever you correspond with the Stanford Alumni Association or use your member benefits.

Your specially coded tag can help you recover your keys, should you ever lose them. If someone finds your keys, all they have to do is drop them in any mailbox. The Alumni Association will guarantee postage and contact you for instructions on how to return them.

Your key tag is your lifetime gift from the Stanford Alumni Association. Please contact us if it becomes lost or damaged, and we’ll replace it free of charge! Let us know when you change your address or telephone number so we can contact you if your keys are returned.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Preparing for the New Year

An excerpt from Song Lyric # 43 by 12th century Chinese poet Li Qingzhao:

I’ve heard spring is still lovely at Twin Streams,
I’d like to go boating in a light skiff there
But fear the tiny grasshopper boats they have
Would not carry
Such a quantity of sorrow.

A book by Stanford Professor of Sinology Ronald Egan, The Burden of Female Talent: The Poet Li Qingzhao and Her History in China (Harvard Asia Center, 2013), analyzes her legacy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Great Article: Thank You VF.Com

It starts with a training seminar at Stanford. One of those that Stanford makes its employees take to highlight an issue: in this case, sexual harassment. It begins with some chit-chat about high jinks at a primate research center.

A primate research center.

Bet the woman leading the seminar never expected to be the lead-in to an article about the “spiraling Stanford sex scandal.”

Self must admit, when she saw the headline of the VF.com article, she had to do a double-take.

Unfortunately for the hapless seminar leader, there was a plant.

Who began by asking a seemingly innocent question:

“So the policy that Stanford has actually says that where such a recusal is required you must notify your supervisor, department chair, or dean,” he said. “What if the person involved is the Dean?”

No problemo. The seminar leader says, without batting an eyelash: You should go straight to the provost.

The man presses on: “Suppose Ed was a Dean and Melissa was a senior faculty member who was married to another senior faculty member and Ed was involved in a relationship with Melissa. Ed would have to recuse himself from making decisions about both Melissa and her husband?”

“Do you know something I don’t know?” the seminar leader asks.

The man says he might.

“Don’t out him or her here!” the seminar leader (who happens to be a lawyer) says quickly.

Laughter.

Self thinks that seminar leader is quite charming. Very snappy and quick in her responses. She seems to be kidding when she tells the question man: “You and I need to talk outside!”

Read the rest of the delicious story here.

Kudos, writer David Margolick.

Stay tuned.

I WILL NEVER OWN ENOUGH BOOKS Spreads AmazeSauce over Self’s Saturday!

Today, I Will Never Own Enough Books nominated self for the CREATIVE BLOGGER AWARD!

Epic Blush!

The rules say that self has to share five facts about herself. So here goes:

  1. Her favorite indulgence is reading Everlark fan fiction.
  2. She was a Fellow in the Stanford University Creative Writing Program.
  3. Her 2nd favorite indulgence is watching plays. The last play she saw (July 2015) was “King John” at the Globe in London.
  4. She loves riding trains.
  5. She has written a 9/11 story called “Wavering” (Published in a literary magazine now defunct, boo).

So here are self’s five nominees:

  1. TheGypsyMind16
  2. The Alchemist’s Kitchen
  3. Kick-Ass Ireland!
  4. cassandra jp
  5. Kahakai Kitchen

Onward!

Stanford Creative Writing: How Self Came To Be

Self is thinking this more and more: how different her life would have been if she hadn’t taken that summer creative writing class from John L’Heureux, who was the Director of the Stanford Creative Writing Program back then.

He told self she should try applying, and since she didn’t have anything better to do (BWAH. HA. HA), she did. And lo and behold, she got a fellowship.

That’s how she met Penny Jackson, Beth Coryell Alvarado, Ehud Havazelet, and Jeffrey Eugenides.

Now, she’s checking out the Stanford Creative Writing Program website, which she only does about twice a year. She discovers that the Program’s been at Stanford “for more than 50 years,” and that it was founded by Wallace Stegner in 1946.

Well, I’ll be darned.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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